Writing Style

Lol! Reminded me of one of my characters in Twisted.

How do you write? It’s a question that any writer will eventually be asked. Yet, is there a correct answer to that? I don’t think there is. In fact, it really depends on the person and their preferences.

Some people are very detailed oriented and like to outline a story from start to finish, making sure to flush out every minute detail. Others are more free spirited and prefer to free flow in order to see what happens. I’m more so in the latter category. I like to curl up on the couch (or sometimes I’ll sit at the kitchen table) and see where my imagination takes me. If it’s a particularly good “what if” scenario with a dynamic character, I’ll pursue it relentlessly down the rabbit hole and worry about the cohesiveness of the plot later. Subsequently, I’ll put said character in a sticky situation to see how s/he meanders free from the chaos (kind of mean but it makes for a juicy story). However, while in the process of writing the sequel to Twisted, I’ve come to realize that a little organization is helpful and necessary.

Worry about that later!

Ha!

So far, this currently untitled story is told from first person point of view through two alternating characters. The way this story is panning out, their plots are interconnected (unbeknownst to one of them). Trying to make sure I stay true to each character’s voice/personality and storylines requires a bit more organization than free styling. Furthermore, I have to adhere to what is already out there in the first book. I can’t change past scenes or events just to suit what I would like to do in this story. Therefore, it’s easier for me to outline the events from each character’s POV and treat each’s events as two separate stories (for the most part) until the end. It can be a pain, but it really helps me organize my thoughts and the flow of the story.

Whelp, that’s how I like to write. Now, I’ll pose the question for you; to all of you writers out there, what’s your preferred writing style? Do you like to organize everything or are you more of a “let’s see what happens” type of writer? As always I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below or find me on social media!

Dystopian Literature and Films

Pretty bleak

Dystopia: an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening.

This is going to be an extremely short post on something that I see everywhere, especially on social media. I see it all over my Twitter feed and in pop culture in general (Blade Runner, Book of Eli, Elysium, etc.); “check out this dystopian fantasy” or “dystopian fantasy about a super bad chick/dude with (insert weapon here).” What is it about dystopian literature that has captivated the public’s imagination?

After a quick Google search, I found a plethora of dystopian lit out there dating back to the 1700’s (Wikipedia has a comprehensive list that you can find here). Admittedly, I really didn’t pay much attention to dystopian lit until I read The Hunger Games series. Since then, I see it everywhere. What  is it about dystopian lit that attracts so many writers and readers? Does the attraction stem from sentiments of discontent about how present day society and/or culture is operating? Is it just one of the more entertaining genres of sic-fi? Is it a combo of the previous two, or something else entirely different? I’m really interested in hearing your (dear reader) opinions on this. Please leave a comment below or find me on social media.

10 Facts About That Kush

We all know Rihanna likes to puff

My main man, AJ, is into that green business and he makes a pretty nice profit for himself. As much as weed has been in the news lately, I discovered that I really didn’t know shit about the drug, aside from the usual stuff you’re fed in school through those D.A.R.E. programs (if you grew up in the 90’s I’m sure you’re aware of those antidrug initiatives). Or, from the musings of a friend who’s high as hell and waxing philosophical about the ills of the world and how if every world leader smoked one, a lot of problems would get solved.

D.A.R.E. poster

So, I decided to look some shit up on this divisive little plant. However, I wasn’t interested in the mundane discussions on its medicinal purposes (although I do sprinkle some in the end) or how it’s a gateway drug that will have you itching for that next hit of rock outside that seedy downtown spot (which is probably gentrified by now if you live in Atlanta). Nor did I want to go into details about how although weed usage is even across the races, blacks are disproportionally imprisoned due to weed possession (aside from being outright sad and ridiculous, that also deserves a post all of its own). I wanted to dig for some other facts ( as much as my 2 a.m. brain will allow me). Therefore, after cutting through most of the mainstream malarkey, I discovered 10 interesting things about cannabis:

Courtesy of gifstumbler.com

  • Hemp is not marijuana. Cannabis stiva (weed) and cannabis stavia L. (hemp) are two entirely different things. The former contains the psychoactive compound THC, the latter does not. There are also many other strands of cannabis that also contain other psychoactive properties aside from the THC we’re familiar with.
  • Cannabis has been around awhile. It is believed to date back to Central/South Asia around 12,000 – 10,000 years ago. For instance, cordage made of hemp found in ancient pottery in Taiwan suggests that cannabis was one of the oldest known human agriculture crops. Chinese records document various ways hemp and weed were cultivated and used throughout the centuries.
  • Cannabis wasn’t always illegal. In fact, it wasn’t until around 1906 that the U.S. began cracking down on the cultivation of cannabis. Prior to that, King James I mandated that hemp be grown as one of the crops in the Virginia colony mainly for textile purposes. Many oils and serums made of hemp were marketed as medicines. However, due to charlatans mixing harmful ingredients into their hemp-based medicines and conservative social mores driving legislation, The Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) was born and deemed cannabis oil a “poison” thus increasing regulation of it. This law preceded the Marijuana Tax Act (1937), which made the possession or transfer of cannabis illegal throughout the U.S. under federal law excluding medical and industrial use. Of course those exclusions were levied heavily. By the 1950’s and onward, the laws around the criminalization of cannabis usage got even tougher.
  • In the U.S., cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 substance. Apparently that means it’s in the same classification as heroine and LSD. Damn.
  • According to some theories, xenophobia helped to criminalize cannabis in the U.S. Interesting on so many different levels. According to an article from NPR citing a 1994 Atlantic article, “Cannabis was outlawed because various powerful interests (some of which have economic motives to suppress hemp production) were able to craft it into a bogeyman in the popular imagination, by spreading tales of homicidal mania touched off by consumption of the dreaded Mexican ‘locoweed.’ Fear of brown people combined with fear of nightmare drugs used by brown people to produce a wave of public action against the ‘marijuana menace.’ That combo led to restrictions in state after state, ultimately resulting in federal prohibition.” Now this was during the early 20th century. What’s most amazing to me about this quote from NPR is how corporate interests played on the fears of the American populace. Arguably, corporations and other interests groups currently employ these same tactics. As far as the xenophobia, the more things change, the more the stay the same. Once again, this deserves a post all of its own.
  • How did we get the term ganja? Put your lighters up and wave your ganja in the air.I’ve heard the term ganja in many dancehall songs and automatically thought it was Jamaican slang for weed. Well, that’s partially true. However, ganja derives from the Sanskrit word ganjika. In Hinduism, ganja is associated with the god Shiva.
  • Even influential minds smoke that Kush. Shakespeare was one of them. While he probably didn’t smoke the Kush strand specifically, an archaeological dig did find pipes from Shakespeare’s garden that contained trace amounts of cannabis. I was surprised to know that even Oprah admitted to smoking it once upon a time.
  • In the U.S., cannabis ranks number 4 in crop value. At least according to some estimates. It’s kind of hard to track that since it’s illegal on the federal level. In some estimates, cannabis ranks as number 1 or 2 in California, New York, and Florida.
  • Cannabis is delicious. People eat it, including yours truly. And no, I’m not talking about those special brownies your homeboy made when you were in college causing you to have that God awful trip. I’m talking about products such as hemp milk, (I use the unsweetened Vanilla flavor in my protein shakes) hemp seeds (which are high in Omegas 3 and 6), and other edibles that don’t contain THC.
  •  “Marijuana” is not the spelled the same in Spanish. Hmm. This probably isn’t that interesting to most people, but since I took Spanish throughout middle and high school and was a Spanish major once upon a time, I find this interesting. In Spanish, it’s spelled “marihuana.” How did the anglicized version morph that “h” into a “j?”

So, that about sums up my 2 a.m. ramblings on random weed, sorry, cannabis related stuff. As always, I’d love to hear from you. Do you know any other good factoids about cannabis or do you have any good weed related stories? Leave them in the comments below or find me on social media.

Sources:

  1. Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/48337-marijuana-history-how-cannabis-travelled-world.html
  2. Advanced Holistic Health. http://www.advancedholistichealth.org/history.html
  3. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug)
  4. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_foods
  5. NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/07/14/201981025/the-mysterious-history-of-marijuana
  6. DEA Museum. http://www.deamuseum.org/ccp/cannabis/history.html
  7. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States

 

Does Length Matter?

Now you know I’m talking about book lengths…

As someone who is new to this independent author thing, I really didn’t have a clue what the distinctions were between a novel and novella. Then one day, I stumbled upon this nifty post that really highlighted the difference between writing categories. Essentially, short stories are no longer than 10,000 words, novellas are no longer than 40,000 words and anything over 40,000 words is generally considered a novel. With that in mind, blog posts and articles that I’ve come across have a majority consensus that states the shorter the story, the less likely readers will enjoy it (Ouch! My little story is only 138 pages). Of course that got me thinking if that majority opinion was true. In order to validate this assertion, I did a quick cursory glance at the top 10 books on the New York Times Bestsellers list. As of the date of this post, the average length of the top 10 books is about 373 pages with the shortest length at 236 pages and the longest at 531 pages. That raised yet another question; do shorter narratives somehow cheapen the reader’s experience?

My very unscientific research suggests that readers do enjoy rather lengthy novels. I find this interesting, mainly because we live in a society where everyone is constantly on the go. If what you have to say can’t be conveyed in 140 characters or less, then people are less inclined to find out more about what you’re saying or trying to push (thanks Twitter!). I don’t know if you’re like this as well, but my attention span is so bad that I’ll even flip channels to another program during the commercials of the program that I was watching. When I shop for books, I’ll also tend to go for the shorter stories (but obviously I’m an oddball in that category). Although social media and other forms of technology have altered our attention spans, why do readers still appear to invest their dough in longer novels? I have two theories.

The first theory is the most obvious; people invest money in items that they deem valuable. Basically, you’re getting more bang for your buck; if the book is 700 pages long, then it’s worth spending $8.99 to purchase the Kindle edition because you’re sure to be entertained, right? Secondly, people read as a form of escapism. As such, the lengthier the novel, the longer the reader can remain absorbed in the fantasy world of the story, thus forgetting whatever issues may be going on in their lives. So, with both of these theories in mind, does this mean that (on average) shorter novels don’t stand a chance to reach the pinnacles of success like lengthier ones?

Surely, many other factors play a role in whether or not a reader will purchase a book (e.g. name recognition, marketing, en vogue genres, etc.), but what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy reading longer or shorter stories? If you’re a writer, do you prefer writing longer or shorter manuscripts? As always, leave your comments below or find me on social media (I’m now on Facebook, although I’m seriously considering shutting that down. It’s too complex!)

 

 

 

 

 

10 Random (Yet Comical) Writer Memes

Writers memes

You’ve heard the joke before. Writers are big time procrastinators. In fact, they procrastinate so badly that you wonder how they even get any writing accomplished. (On an anecdotal note, I tend to get my best writing done in spurts. For example, I won’t write anything for two or three days and then I’ll go on a random ten-hour bender.) I was ecstatic when I saw these recurring jokes online. After all, I thought that I was the only person who stared blankly at a screen for ten minutes or so before deciding to check Twitter or G+. However, this seems to be a common thread that I share with fellow writers. So, on a morning chocked full of procrastination, I decided to make another lighthearted post. Sit back and postpone your musings for a minute or so. Here are ten comical memes pertaining to writers:

writing meme 4

Hmm…

10. Accurate. Sometimes it seems like my characters are telling me the story and I’m just the scribe. Other times, I’m trying to dig deep into my creative reservoir to see what I can come up with. When the latter happens, it’s time to hop on Twitter or G+.

Writers meme 8

Try insulting a writer at your own risk

9. Need I say more? Don’t mess with a writer and her keyboard (and sometimes pen and paper).

writers meme 3

Beware of plot holes and crazy story logic

8. Anyone who examines a plot and sees gaping holes (be it movies or novels) will tell you why the aforementioned meme is spot on. Or, if the story just doesn’t make any sense, this meme is also appropriate.

Writer's Meme 9

Procrastination at its finest.

7. Ha! Story of my life while in the middle of any writing project. I even remember going through these same categories while procrastinating for school work.Well, maybe not the comparison piece.

writer's meme 7

Are you ready to go yet?

6. What can I say? I’m a little introverted. However, listening to others socialize can yield great ideas for future storylines or characters.

writer's meme 5

Ha! Where’s my tribe?

5. Anybody who’s read this post will and this post understand why I selected this meme. The struggle is real!

writer's meme 2

Well, is it?

4. Ha! More of an inside joke for myself. I wear my satin bonnet whenever I’m parked in the house for the day.

large_Memes_from_Writers_Write4

Happens to me all the time.

3. I actually find these conversations beneficial. I really get to know my characters and it helps me keep them authentic throughout the course of the story. I particularly enjoy interviewing them. Or, I could just have multiple personalities. Am I crazy or nah?

Writer meme 6

Another thing that happens to me more times than not

2. When I have those ideas on the tip of my brain right before I fall asleep, I jot down notes in my cell before tossing it on the nightstand and rolling over. Sometimes, I’ll even dream about those ideas. When I wake up, I’ll get the cell and jot down the details I remember.

1.  I love this meme, which is why it’s number 1! I think it’s an accurate description of different people’s perception of who writers are and what we do. What are your favorite memes? As always, leave a comment below or find me on social media! If you liked this post, please don’t be afraid to share the love! 🙂

Yep!

Yep!

10 Random Facts About Me

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

A quick, fun Saturday post!

 

Yuck! T

Yuck!

10.) I don’t like overly ripe bananas

Why so serious?

Why so serious?

9.) I love a good joke

8.) I’m short

Vanderbilt Divinity School

Vanderbilt Divinity School

7.) I spent 2.5 years in seminary.

Non-GMO-project

6.) I’m a little particular about what I eat

Nope!

Nope!

5.) …and I don’t drink sodas

Archer!

Archer!

4.) I’m a Sagittarius

My Camry isn't this jazzy!

My Camry isn’t this jazzy!

3.) Every car I’ve own so far has been a Toyota

2.) My favorite time of year is October 1st – January 1st

Ha!

Ha!

1.) I can be stubborn at times!

What’s a random fact about you? Leave your comments below or find me on social media!

The Allure Of The Bad Boy

T.I.

T.I. said it best: The funny guy and the bad guy will never be single. 

While in the process of writing the sequel to Twisted, one self-proclaimed bad boy demanded to get my attention. So far, he’s been domineering, as opposed to my main man, AJ. This guy is spilling his guts, revealing his torrid history one word at a time. He’s explained how he turned into the person he has due to life events and how he desperately wants to change, but can’t seem to find a way to do so. Over the course of the story so far, he’s participated in some pretty nasty things. However, he’s hoping that an encounter with a certain good girl can help reform his bad boy ways. This scenario got me thinking; what is it about bad boys that is appealing?

Charlie Hunnam aka Jax Teller

Charlie Hunnam aka Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy

It’s a storyline that is replayed ad nauseam in popular culture. Girl meets aloof, unobtainable bad boy. Over the course of the plot, girl falls for said bad guy and bad guy falls for said girl. At the end, bad guy and girl live happily ever after. Why? Why is that such a common and popular storyline? Perhaps rapper T.I. said it best; the funny guy and the bad guy will always have a girl. The funny guy is understandable. After all, who doesn’t like someone that makes them laugh? But why is the tough guy appealing?

T.I

T.I

There’s loads of info out there speculating about why girls like bad boys. Try a Google search and you’ll see tons of articles populate your screen. I stumbled upon this article in Psychology Today that attempts to explain this attraction. (By the way, the psychological breakdown is not only intriguing, but also paints a rather unflattering picture of bad boys at their psychological root. I suggest checking this small study out.) Without getting too bogged down in the scientific minutiae of the article, the researchers essentially concluded that there are two possible reasons women find bad boys attractive, both dealing with sexual reproduction:

1.) Women are responding to “male quality” meaning that they are selecting bad boys who demonstrate confidence, stubbornness, and “risk-taking” tendencies.

2.) Women like the way these bad boys “sell themselves” as opposed to their male counterparts.

Jax Teller

Jax Teller

 

Does this mean that the bad boy attraction boils down to the most basic, primal need of reproduction? Or, is it something more complex to it? I know one bad boy who is begging to differ with this study and its conclusions. He’s screaming at me from the pages of my manuscript now…

As always I’d love to hear from you. Comment here or find me on social media!

Targeting An Audience

You got those readers I need?

You got those readers I need?

Ok guys. If you’ve been following my independent author journey, then you know that the struggle is real! The biggest obstacle by far is marketing and trying to zero in on who exactly is my intended audience. Who in the hell would be interested in reading Twisted and how can I reach out to them?

I attended a Twitter conversation yesterday about branding yourself in the market. (I find the live Twitter conversations fascinating, but kind of hard to keep up with. Questions and answers are rapidly flying everywhere!) I asked the moderators what branding techniques authors could employ to promote themselves. One of the moderators asked who my audience is. That’s where I drew a blank. I have no idea! Initially, I thought it would be millennials who enjoy reading fast-paced thrillers (I’m not so sure it’s just millennials now). I told the moderator as such. She suggested that I whittle that down. Ok. Whittle it to what though? I honestly have no clue.

Therefore, dear reader, I’m asking your opinions to get more ideas on a target market. For all of y’all who’ve read Twisted or the free sample on the blog, who do you think would most enjoy reading this story? I’d LOVE to hear your comments here or on social media! Oh, and a big shout out and hugs to my teacher readers! I really appreciate the support and engagement!

For Those Dumpy Days…

The G.O.A.T.

The G.O.A.T.

We all have them. Those days where you just feel like nothing is going your way or nothing is working out like you want it to. That pretty much sums up my mood these past couple of days.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m no marketing guru and trying to figure out how to market this little story I wrote is a massive pain in my ass. However, I don’t really have the luxury of paying someone to market this shit for me either. So, I’ve taken the last day and a half and I’ve just been dumpy, dumpy that my story isn’t being heard in a sea full of stories. Dumpy because I don’t really know what I’m doing. Dumpy that it seems tons of other books are promoted and discussed, but mine is in its own little corner of the market collecting cobwebs. Dumpy that I really haven’t tapped into a resource or network that I feel can truly help me figure all of this shit out. I was so down that I really didn’t felt like writing. Why bother? To hell with writing a sequel to Twisted if no one is going to read the first book anyway. That sentiment remained until I read the New York Magazine article about Serena Williams.

Everyone knows who Serena Williams is. She’s arguably the best female athlete of this era (I consider her the G.O.A.T.). With that being said, reaching that pinnacle of success doesn’t come without a bunch of shit. For example, she (and Venus) is constantly called a man, accused of juicing, slammed with racial slurs and epithets (hate is especially vehement on message boards) and every other negative comment you could possibly imagine. And yet, she (and Venus) perseveres on and off court. (I marvel at her mental tenacity on the court. It’s quite the sight to see.)

As the New York Magazine article stated, her mental fortitude and self-belief is off the scale. I agree. It has to be. In a sport where the majority is telling you that you’re not good enough and its pundits denigrating you every chance they get, you have no choice but to maintain a sense of inner belief. Upon reading that article, I felt inspired. I decided to stop wallowing in the dumps and try to tap into my own inner spring of resilience and self-belief.

Therefore, I pulled myself up by the metaphorical bootstraps and reminded myself of a few things: Twisted is a good story. Your book hasn’t even been on the market for a full month. Patience is a virtue. I need to persevere and keep seeking out methods that will help me promote my story and myself. It’s a big world out there. Someone is bound to think what I have to say is good.

So, with mindset anew, I’ve decided to start this day off with positive thoughts. Who cares if I didn’t do much preplanning in regards to marketing before the launch of Twisted? That’s in the past. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes and figure out what I can do from here moving forward. As Serena said in the article, “I don’t dwell in the past. If I do, I’ll be swallowed up my negativity.” Boy, if that’s not an accurate statement, I don’t know what is. If you have moments like what I shared in this post, remember that each day is new and different. If you stay mentally tough, focused, and patient, you’ll achieve your goal.

Graphic Artist or Nah?

Tale of Two Covers

Tale of Two Covers

Recently, I’ve seen discussions on various social media outlets that pertain to book covers. The main debate is between hiring a graphic designer versus doing what you can on your own. The argument for the former is that a professional can make your cover compete with the books produced by major publishing houses, which in turn can boost sales. The counterargument is that the cost of hiring a graphic artist can be out of budget, therefore if your have the skillset you should create your own cover. I see both sides of the argument.

Research shows that people shop with their eyes. As such, your cover should look professional and not like a 5 year old drew it in art class (unless that is what you’re going for). Your cover should convey what your story is about without being over or underwhelming. However, not everyone has the dough to shell out for a professional. In the first rendition of my book, I went to Fiverr. The Fiverr result is above on the left (I got nothing but love for Fiverr, just not in the case of this cover). When I decided to rerelease the book, I went a different route, and forked over a few extra coins.

I’m still undecided about whether or not a better cover improves the chances of someone purchasing your book mainly because I think other factors contribute to sales as well (e.g. knowing your audience and connecting with them). Yet, if you have the skills to create your own cover, there’s nothing wrong with saving a few bucks and doing it yourself.

What are your thoughts? Should indie authors hire graphic artist to create their covers or should authors utilize their own skills? Leave your comments here or find me on social media!